A knock on the door interrupted his deliberation. After pulling a folder over the letters, he opened it.
“Robert told me what room you were in, and I was wondering if I could talk to you about Connor.” Calista hung back as if she was afraid he’d bite.
“Of course, come in.” He couldn’t help but take in her appearance when she turned to shut the door behind her. Wearing a clingy brown sweater and the same type of snug jeans she’d worn the day before, he was sure she was trying to kill him.
“I just want an honest assessment of his progress. The doctor’s won’t answer any of my questions. I know he’s able to get out of bed, and he looks great, but I’m not a doctor. All Connor will say is that he feels fine, but I think he’d say that even if he didn’t.” She twisted her hands in front of her.
Dane nodded because he already knew all this. “His vitals are great and in all honesty he’ll be ready to go home in a couple weeks.”
Connor was healing with remarkable speed. Maybe it had something to do with his reunion with his sister. Whatever it was, he and the CIA would be grateful for his return.
“Great.” Calista exhaled and visibly relaxed. When she didn’t make any move to leave he moved to the desk and sat back down.
“Why do I get the feeling there’s something else on your mind?”
Calista chewed on her bottom lip and motioned towards his bed. “Do you mind?”
A vision of her sprawled out on his bed entered his mind, but he knew that wasn’t her intention for coming to his room. After he nodded she perched on the edge of the mattress and took a breath.
“I know I have no right to ask you this, and you might not even be able to tell me, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask. When he goes back to work, do you have any say over how much field work he does? I know you’re his supervisor and I just thought…” her voice trailed off.
“First of all, I’m his team leader, not supervisor. If there’s a need for him we use him. It’s as simple as that.”
Calista’s startling green eyes flashed in annoyance as she jumped off the bed and moved to the door. Apparently that wasn’t the response she’d been expecting.
“I don’t know why I even bothered.” She mumbled something under her breath. Dane couldn’t quite make out the words, although he was sure he heard an “asshole” or something to that effect.
“Calista.” He wasn’t going to let her leave without explaining himself.
At the sound of her name she turned around but kept her hand on the doorknob. She arched a perfect eyebrow at him and put her other hand on her hip.
“I know you think I’m a selfish bastard and that’s fine. For the record, Connor won’t be sent back out until he is one hundred percent healed. He chose this profession. You have to understand that.”
“I don’t have to understand anything. He’s my brother and I have a right to worry.”
“I know. If it makes you feel any better I’ve already put in a recommendation that Connor stick to research for the next six to eight months. Basically, he’ll be stuck in front of a computer.”
“Why didn’t you just say that in the first place?” Her eyes narrowed.
“I didn’t want you to think you could charm me with that smile of yours.”
“Excuse me?” Calista ivory skin tinged pink and Dane knew he’d been right about her intentions.
“So you didn’t come in here planning on using that pretty face of yours to get what you wanted?”
“If you’re insinuating that I would use sex to get what I want…”
He moved towards her and cut her off, inhaling her tropical scent. “I’m not saying you would have had sex with me, but you did come in here with the hopes of using your natural allure. Tell me I’m wrong.”
When she didn’t say anything, he stepped closer until they were inches apart from one another. “I won’t be manipulated, unless of course you are offering to share my bed. In that case, I’ll let you manipulate me any way you want to, baby.”
At Calista’s horrified expression he crushed his mouth over hers in one swift movement. Before she had a chance to respond he pulled his head back and whispered in her ear. “Don’t play with fire unless you’re willing to get burned.”
Her green eyes smoldered with rage as she shoved against his chest. “You’re disgusting! I thought maybe I was wrong about you after the other night on the dock, but my first impression was dead on. You’re nothing but a pig.” She threw him one last withering look before slamming the door behind her.
After Calista stormed out of his room Dane leaned on the door and raked both hands through his hair. Apparently he’d lost his mind. Her sweet scent lingered in the air, enveloping him. Whatever it was, it was obviously designed to drive him crazy. He hadn’t meant to kiss her, but it had seemed the only way to make her leave. Now he wished he hadn’t, because now he knew what it was like to taste her. And one taste of her would never be enough.
Two months later
“I’m coming.” Calista yelled in response to the ringing phone in her empty condo.
She struggled to find the keys buried at the bottom of her purse and juggle three full bags of groceries at the same time. The bodyguards that Robert had hired only shadowed her, but never followed her upstairs. The bodyguards Robert thought she didn’t know about. Times like this she wished she could ask for their help. For some reason her manager liked keeping their existence a secret.
She’d only been home for one week and was still getting settled in. She lived in an exclusive four bedroom, three bath condominium on the top floor of a high rise in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. She purchased the place six years ago, but had never actually spent more than a few weeks at a time in it.
“Hello?” Green apples tumbled out of one of the grocery bags and onto the counter as she snatched up the phone.
“Cal? What’s going on over there? Are you okay?” Robert’s concerned voice echoed through the phone line.
“Jeez Robert, calm down. Of course I’m all right. I just got back from buying groceries.”
“Why didn’t you answer your cell phone?”
Calista walked into the living room and scanned it for signs of her missing cell while continuing to talk on the portable.
“That would be because I left it on the coffee table. Sorry about that, I’m so used to you remembering every last detail, I’m having a hard time keeping my head screwed on. What’s up? You sound worried. Again.”
“Nothing, I was just checking on my favorite girl.”
“You’ve been checking on me a lot lately. I’m still getting settled in, you know that. I got a chance to check out the recording studio today and I absolutely love it. It’s exactly like I remember.”
“I just don’t understand why you don’t want to live in New York with me,” he grumbled.
“Robert, I’ve spent the past month with you since leaving Connor. I’m surprised you’re not sick of me. Besides, we’ve been over this. I’m closer to Connor and its nice being out of the spotlight. I get a few stares every now and then, but I can blend in here with a sense of normalcy. No one really cares that I’m famous. Not to mention, most of my friends from school live in the city or near here so I’m always busy.”
“I know you’re happier there, I just miss you. Look, Cal, there’s something I need to tell you…”
“Hold on, I’m getting another call.” Calista clicked over fully expecting it to be one of her girlfriends confirming their plans for the evening.
“Hey, it’s me.” Her brother’s familiar voice came over the line.
“Connor! Hold on.” She clicked back over and finished up with Robert but not before promising to deadbolt her door.
“I thought you were out of the country on assignment. I didn’t expect to hear from you so soon.” Her brother was gone so much, it was impossible to keep track of his schedule.
“Dane and Nikolai retired, so as of now I’m grounded until our team regroups.”
“Dane retired?” Calista silently scolded herself. She didn’t care what Dane Leven did with his life.
“Yeah, I thought I told you. Dane put in his notice right after I returned to work. I guess that was about a month ago. He and his cousin have been thinking about branching out on their own for a while. They started their own security company.”
She hadn’t seen or talked to Dane since the night he’d kissed her. The next morning he’d just been gone. When she’d questioned her brother, all he had said was that Dane was on an assignment.
Calista stayed another four weeks with her brother before he had flown back to Virginia. Instead of coming directly home, she’d made her way to New York with Robert and stayed for another three weeks.
It had been nearly two months since she’d seen Dane. Not that she’d been keeping track. Not much anyway. For some annoying reason the memory of his kiss rattled her.
“Calista? You still there?” Connor’s voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Sorry, I guess I just got distracted.”
“If you’re not busy, I was thinking of driving in tomorrow night and staying through the weekend. That is if you don’t already have plans.”
“You know you don’t even have to ask. Is everything okay?”
“What, I can’t come see my sister?”
“No, of course you can.”
“There are a few things I want to talk about, but I want to do it in person.”
“Is everything okay? Are you all right?” She couldn’t keep the worry out of her voice.
Her brother had recovered with incredible speed, but he never kept her abreast of anything important.
“I’m fine, but we’ll talk when I get there.”